NEW YORK (Reuters) – Stocks fell modestly on Monday on signs of fatigue after six consecutive weeks of gains and after the European central bank quelled speculation it was planning a bond-buying program.
Despite the fall, the SP 500 is still near a four-year high, rising about 9 percent in the past six weeks. Investors had been waiting for the ECB to take steps to control the euro crisis in September. Last week, the index broke away from the 1,400 level where it had stalled for much of August.
On the Nasdaq, Apple Inc shares hit a new high on Monday, becoming the most valuable public company of all-time, with the combined value of its shares exceeding a previous record set by Microsoft.
But Facebook Inc shares briefly fell more than 50 percent from issue price to hit a new low of $18.75.
The slight losses on U.S. exchanges compared with much steeper declines in Europe and a fall in the Shanghai index to its lowest level since 2009.
“The one thing to note today is the resilience we are seeing in the U.S. market,” said James Dailey, portfolio manager at TEAM Asset Strategy fund in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. “There is this notion that the U.S. market is the oasis of the desert.”
German magazine Der Spiegel said over the weekend that the ECB was considering buying debt issued by member countries if their interest rates became too elevated. A bank spokesman said it was misleading to report on decisions that still had not been taken.
Germany’s central bank, the Bundesbank, also on Monday reiterated its opposition to bond purchases. A spokesman for the German Finance Ministry said it was not aware of any plans for the ECB to target bond spreads.
The Dow Jones industrial average was down 13.14 points, or 0.10 percent, at 13,262.06. The Standard Poor’s 500 Index was down 2.54 points, or 0.18 percent, at 1,415.62. The Nasdaq Composite Index was down 6.34 points, or 0.21 percent, at 3,070.25.
Limiting market losses was a major acquisition in the healthcare industry. Aetna Inc said it would buy Coventry Health Care Inc for $5.6 billion.
Coventry shares jumped more than 19 percent to $41.61 after Aetna said it will pay $41.10 per share for the company, putting the deal at about a 20 percent premium to the stock’s Friday closing price. The deal is the latest in a string of multibillion-dollar acquisitions in the U.S. healthcare sector.
Aetna shares rose nearly 5 percent to $39.84.
Lowe’s Cos Inc reported weaker-than-expected quarterly results and cut its profit outlook for the fiscal year as the world’s second-largest home improvement chain lost market share to larger rival Home Depot Inc . The shares fell 6.7 percent to $26.01.
Struggling retailer Best Buy Co Inc said its founder, Richard Schulze, has turned down an offer from the board to conduct due diligence in connection with his proposal to take the company private at a valuation of more than $8 billion. The shares fell 7.9 percent to $18.67.
The global economic outlook is more uncertain now than at the start of the financial crisis in late 2008, Doug Oberhelman, chief executive of Caterpillar , the world’s largest maker of construction equipment, said on Monday. Caterpillar‘s shares lost 0.8 percent to $89.32.
(Reporting By Angela Moon; Editing by Andrew Hay)